Hunting Online for Vintage Bikes/Parts
Those of us with a penchant for vintage bikes (heck, vintage anything) can’t generally just wander into our favorite local store or check out Amazon for most of the stuff we want, and wind up spending an inordinate amount of time searching the net for interesting bits. There isn’t just one place to go to find what we are looking for. Bikes and parts are scattered all over the Internet as well as at local swap meets, auctions (both online and off), and at brick-and-mortar shops. I try below to identify (mostly online) places I hunt and techniques I use in my search for parts to complete the current project or the next project (which I really never need). I don't claim to be an expert. These are just sites and tools I've discovered.
Places to search
There are an amazing number of places on the Internet to search for vintage bikes and parts. Here are the ones I know about which have a reasonable chance of yielding some useful hits. I’m sure there are more. As you get more and more into hunting for that unique bike or obscure part to complete your tout Mavic group, you will likely wind up searching sites which are not in your native language. You likely have to rely on Google Translate, but that won’t be perfect (for example, it will translate your use of the brand name “Galli” into “Rooster” when searching Italian sites). You probably want to track down a copy of the multilingual bicycle parts guide found in Sutherland’s Handbook for Bicycle Mechanics. (Actually, if you don’t have it, you want your own copy of this tome.) I have a 3rd edition. I’m not sure if the latest editions have the translator, but they probably do.
Here’s what I know about (let me know about others):
- Leboncoin.fr - think of it as Craigslist for France
- Bike-related mailing lists, forums and websites
- Classic Rendezvous Google Group
- The Paceline (not specifically vintage, but interesting stuff and discussion turns up...)
- InternetBOB Google Group
- BOBishBikesFS Yahoo! Group
- Facebook Steel Is Real Vintage Bikes group (I don’t do FB, but am told this is a good group)
- Bike co-ops often have inexpensive bikes and parts for sale. Parts are often sorted by type into bins or buckets, so there might be a gem hidden just out of view.
- Though many do no used bike business, your local bike shop might also have a stash of bits in back. It pays to ask.
With all those sources (and more), there is no way you can follow everything. Trust me, I’ve tried. Ask my wife how much time I spend staring at my phone. Over the past few years, I have tried all sorts of techniques, including following specific searches or sellers on eBay, or using specialty search sites like Searchdome (e.g., “show me auctions for Brooks saddles with no bids and less than an hour remaining”). While I still rely on specific searches to drill down into a particular site’s offerings, I’ve increasingly turned to RSS feeds as my preferred way to aggregate those search results into a single interface.
After a long time picking through emails from eBay, Searchdome, and various bike forums, I started to lament the fact that results from different sources were formatted differently, my inbox was inundated by extra email I sometimes wanted to just ignore (for awhile), and some non-email possibilities required me to return to specific websites from time-to-time (causing me to sometimes miss opportunities). About this time, Google dumped their Reader product (a rather snazzy RSS feed reader), which I’d been using as my browser home page. Casting about for a replacement, I settled on Inoreader. It’s not as fancy as Google Reader was, but it gets the job done.
The key to making this work is to find RSS feeds for specific pages and search queries. Sometimes it’s not immediately obvious, but many (though, unfortunately, not all) sites with search facilities (eBay, Craigslist, bikeforums, etc) support RSS feeds. RSS feeds can be for large groups or specific queries.
Here’s an example of how I set up an eBay search in Inoreader. Create an eBay query for, say, “Schwinn Paramount,” in the Cycling category, sorted by time newly listed. This last bit is important! The default sort order in eBay is by “Best Match.” Since you want to see new auctions as they are listed, you want to sort by “Time: newly listed,” otherwise you might see that spectacular 1950’s Cinelli stem badge you’ve been searching for just as (or just after) the auction completes.
The resulting mouthful of a search URL is: http://www.ebay.com/sch/Cycling-/7294/i.html?_from=R40&_sop=10&_nkw=Schwinn+Paramount
Now, copy that URL in your browser, head on over to your Inoreader tab, and paste it into the search form in the upper left corner.
Note the “Found feeds.” That means Inoreader found an RSS feed associated with that URL. Hit RETURN. You have now set up an RSS feed for Schwinn Paramounts on eBay:
Inoreader will periodically fetch the RSS for that query and give you the opportunity display the updated list of auctions. This works for bikeforums, Velocipede Salon, Reddit, Kijiji, and many other sites.
Inoreader often knows how to modify a site’s URLs to get it to return RSS format, so you just need to enter the desired URL. You generally don't need to tweak the URL yourself to get the website to spit out RSS instead of normal HTML. If not, you can usually poke around and find an RSS feed icon. Just copy the link associated with that icon and paste it into Inoreader’s search box.
Here are some other external references which people have provided.